The Winnipeg Jets travelled west on Wednesday to begin a three-game Western Conference, all-Canadian road trip, with stops in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Amidst a see-saw playoff battle that has already seen the Jets drop in and out of the current playoff picture numerous times a day, Winnipeg managed to pick up two points Wednesday evening, beating the Oilers by a count of 4-2 from Rogers Place.
The win gave Winnipeg 80 points on the season and the team’s first four-game winning streak of the year. The Jets improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games against Edmonton. With the victory, the Jets leapfrogged both Nashville and Vancouver (78 points) into the first Western Conference Wild Card place.
The Oilers scored the first goal of the game, but it took an entire scoreless first period to find it. Following the 18-minute first intermission, Edmonton came flying out of the gate. Off the opening faceoff, the Oilers dumped the puck in from centre ice, where Connor Hellebuyck and Dmitry Kulikov experience some miscommunication, leading to a loose puck directly in front of the Jets’ net. Mark Scheifele was unable to help out, while Tyler Ennis potted the disc into the wide-open Winnipeg cage, just nine seconds into the middle stanza.
The Jets did storm back, however, as Blake Wheeler found Winnipeg’s first goal of the game, for his 22nd of the season. On a delayed Darnell Nurse interference call on Dylan DeMelo, Wheeler carried the puck into Edmonton’s end before attempting to cross it to Cody Eakin. The play was interrupted by an errant James Neal poke check, which indirectly rebounded the puck past Mike Smith and into the Oilers’ net, tying the game at ones with 11:35 left to play in the frame.
The fiery flood of goals continued as Winnipeg took its first lead of the game with just 3:32 to go. This time, it was Edmonton that experienced a lack of communication from its goaltender. Smith played a dump-in poorly, where Eakin collected the puck in the corner of the ice and found a wide-open Patrik Laine in the slot, who one-timed his 28th of the season into the open part of the net, giving Winnipeg a brief 2-1 lead.
But, as the period earlier dictated, the Oilers stormed back. Connor McDavid picked up a strong zone entry play from winger Zack Kassian, before driving hard to the Winnipeg net. He evaded a Connor Hellebuyck poke check and tucked the puck past the backstop’s outstretched leg, far side, knotting the game at twos with just 1:37 left in the period. The Oilers held a slight 26-22 shot lead through 40 minutes of play.
The parade of goals continued at the start of the third period, as a blocked Oilers shot led to a Kyle Connor’s 37th tally of the season. Blake Wheeler collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and capitalized on an ill-advised Oilers pinch. He drew forward Leon Draisaitl to him along the boards before dishing the puck to Connor cross-ice, who beat Smith five-hole on a partial breakaway, restoring Winnipeg’s one-goal lead just 29 seconds in. Connor’s goal was his 200th career NHL point.
Following a frantic final two minutes of the game, in which Edmonton maintained consistent offensive zone control with netminder Smith on the bench for the extra attacker, Connor scored on his third attempted shot at the empty net, sealing the deal for Winnipeg with 40 seconds remaining in the contest.
Connor Hellebuyck shut the door on 36 of 38 Oilers shots, while Mike Smith stopped 21 of 24 shots by the Jets. Connor had two goals, while Wheeler had a goal and an assist for Winnipeg, which improved its record to 37-28-6.
Next up for Winnipeg is a Saturday night contest at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary with the Flames. The late-night game will feature a 9:00 PM central puck drop, before the Jets travel to Vancouver on Sunday for a 7:00 PM contest against the Canucks. Both games will be available to view on Sportsnet. Winnipeg will return home to Bell MTS Place for a Tuesday and Friday set against the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild next week.